Q: Why do priests have to wear black?
A: This is a very good question, because some may think that we lack imagination with our clerical clothing, which, of course, is not the case. As with the liturgical seasons, the color we wear communicates to others our office or position. Members of our military or our first responders, not to mention, of course, certain members of our civil service wear different uniforms.
For the clergy, black communicates poverty and simplicity. Even bishops and cardinals wear black suits. While it certainly is easy each morning to determine what I will wear in terms of color coordination, the meaning of the color black is more profound.
The black suits and collars that clergy wear communicate to others the clerical state, namely, that the possessions of this world pale in comparison to how we value our Lord Jesus and our vocation to serve. The spiritual goods of our Church infinitely outweigh the material gifts of this world. Also, wearing black prevents us from becoming “flashy,” in which we draw attention to ourselves instead of the One whom we represent, namely, our Lord Jesus Christ.
Q: During Lent, why does the priest process out in silence on some Sundays, but not others?
A: The Lenten season is a penitential season, that is, a daily call to repentance. That being said, we recognize how the “Gloria” is not proclaimed at Mass, except on special solemnities during Lent, and the Gospel acclamation is not the usual “Alleluia,” but something to the order of, “Praise to you Lord Jesus Christ, king of endless glory.”
The music, also, is subdued for this spiritual pilgrimage of Lent. According to the liturgical books of the Catholic Church, silence has tremendous value in the season of Lent, and it is optional for us simply to proclaim the Communion antiphon at Mass and to process out of the church in silence. This may seem like a misnomer, but the silence can be deafening within our own hearts, because silence invites us to reflect on the season in which we find ourselves. Lent simply is not limited to the sacred space in which we worship, but extends everywhere outside the sacred doors of the church as well.
Q: How do you prove to a realist that God is real?
A: This is, also, a very timely question, for we live in an era where secularism has become a religion to some. Even worse, secular relativism has, also, compromised the very fabric of our culture. However, before I get further onto my preaching pedestal, I will designate that subject to another time.
What I have done is set the stage, recognizing that we live in a world where people have lost or at the very least dampened their belief in a loving God. In your question, I suspect you are referring mostly to atheists, as well as agnostics, those who either believe there is no God or believe in a disinterested God who cares little about our destiny.
As fellow Christians, we recognize the very fact that God created the world and that Jesus Christ, Son of God the Father, came to us and as a result suffered, died and rose from the dead for you and for me. In other words, God does care.
As one who enjoyed science as a youth, I am edified to see the workings of God, especially through our scientific knowledge. We have among us priests and religious who, prior to entering the convent, friary, monastery or seminary, lived in the scientific field, such as in medicine, astrophysics and engineering. When these individuals recognized their sacred vocation, they did not simply devalue or renounce their scientific background, but actually have fortified the Church with the appreciation of the created world.
You ask how we may prove to a realist that God is real. While faith is the beginning of our spiritual pilgrimage, some people may possess little or no faith in the living God. Loving compassion and not pity should rule our response to their inquiry about God. Perhaps we can begin by referring to certain stories in the Bible, beginning with the Good News of Jesus and his love for us. The Bible is more than a story about us. The Bible is the living word of God. We encounter God. You may ask the person what keeps them from believing in God or, better yet, you may live your faith for all to see. Not in a boastful way, but live in a manner that others see you would like to share the Good News, while respecting where others may be in their journey here on earth. As Pope Francis mentions time and time again, our encounter with others must begin with compassion and mercy.
We all are invited to be realists, for the reality is Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today and forever. The reality is God so loved the world that he sent us his only Son. God loves us more than you and I can imagine. As we quickly approach Holy Week and the sacred Easter Triduum, may we keep our eyes fixed on Jesus in our common Lenten pilgrimage. God bless you and your family.
To “Ask the Bishop,” direct questions to, Diocese of Steubenville Office of Christian Formation and Schools – P.O. Box 969, Steubenville, OH 43952; (740) 282-3631.
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